Mythology and history have greatly influenced the English language.
Ever described a self-absorbed person as narcissistic? The term comes from the story of Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection in water and turned into a narcissus flower.
You can find more common expressions and their origins on the History Channel’s web site. Painting the town red, crocodile tears – the stories behind the sayings are fascinating.
The next time you’re angry and begin to read someone the riot act, consider this:
Instituted in 1715, the Riot Act gave the British government the authority to label any group of more than 12 people a threat to the peace. In these circumstances, a public official would read a small portion of the Riot Act and order the people to “disperse themselves, and peaceably depart to their habitations.” Anyone that remained after one hour was subject to arrest or removal by force.
Many popular expressions had gruesome beginnings. Did you know, for instance, that “saved by the bell” refers to being buried alive? Yikes!
String was tied to the deceased’s wrist and passed through the coffin lid, up through the ground and tied to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night and listen in case the corpse was not really dead and was ringing the bell.
I wonder what legacy our generation will leave behind in the world of etymology. Please tell me that words such as “selfie” will be long forgotten.